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ISLAND LIFE: Learning to Smoke – Island Witch Crafts

You can see it but you can’t touch it. In a trance you watch and then peek-a-boo it’s gone. In its place another swirl teases you with promises of a portal leading to mystical adventures. The aroma kisses the air and then your skin.

This is smoke cleansing and I’m watching a series of hypnotic videos with a seductive soundtrack that Sofia of Island Witch Crafts has created especially for The Island Villas. I start to listen to the accompanying voice notes on the meaning behind smoke cleansing and the process; Sofia mentions a tiny sentence about the cultural history of smudging. I miss the depths of this tiny sentence the first time; returning to it only after travelling down a research rabbit hole. Thankfully I emerge more joyful about my own smoke cleansing heritage then ever before. I thank Sofia with all my heart for honouring the ancestory and practices of peoples that have come before us. As her velvety voice guides me,

I sense a wisdom that is at once kind yet clear. I think maybe she has powdery soft powers, the type that don’t judge but compassionately whisper things you’ve hidden from yourself.

This is not just another trendy fad for Sofia. This is a way of being and ultimately of connection to ourselves that often times can be lost but by returning to love can be found again.

Sofia explained that many cultures have their own version of smoke cleansing for various purposes from medicinal to spiritual as well as keeping bugs at bay. In Asia incense is burnt, in Arabic cultures resin whilst Sofias’ own South American background uses various sacred herbs, plants and tree bark.

I’m very familiar with incense -known as Agarbathi in Hindi- and holy fires. Each morning my mother would journey through the house chanting the Gayatri or Shiva mantra with a blazing incense stick in hand.

I had no idea back then just how profound my mothers’ morning ritual was.

So exactly what is the difference between smudging and smoke cleansing?
Deep dive into Cultural Appropriation

Smudging is specific term that describes a centuries old ceremonial act originating from the Indigenous Peoples of North America. It is a cyclical process from sowing the seeds to harvesting to the ceremony itself. Making sure what you take from the Earth, you give back. It isn’t just about cleansing negative energy but also an invocation or summoning of types and very specific to prayer. It was often performed by a particular member of the tribe, similar to a Priest performing a Catholic Baptism.

Smoke cleansing is the term we give to other forms of burning incense/resin/herbs etc and almost anyone can practise this with the right guidance and intuition.

According to the Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.

“Smudging is traditionally a ceremony for purifying or cleansing the soul of negative thoughts of a person or place.”

There are four elements involved, Water (represented by the Abalone shell container the smudge stick sits in), Earth (the sacred herbs that make the smudge stick), Fire (fire) and Air ( when the smoke is blown out or fanned into the ether/atmosphere).

While this sounds similar to other practices there is a certain protocol to smudging in the way that the smudge stick moves around the body as well as the prayers, these are all things that have been passed down from generation to generation despite the oppressive and cruel laws that banned Indigenous Peoples from practicing their own culture.

 

Smudging and the ban on Indigenous Peoples

Tragically the act of smudging put Indigenous Peoples lives at risk as it was banned in 1876 alongside all religious and cultural activities including wearing their own clothes and speaking their own languages in an effort to “enfranchise” them. This was a dark time in the history of North America. It was only as recently as 1978 with the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that this changed.

A whole nation stripped of its right to be themselves and live as they had for time immemorial is unthinkable and to this day, Indigenous People are engaged in a quest to reimagine an America, where their basic human rights are respected.

I come across a bewitching fable that tells of how a young boy once arrived late at night to a warring village loaded with bundles of locally grown white sage. He asked to see the elders and as they sat in a sacred circle, he told them he had been sent to dispel their hatred for each other and to restore harmony. He asked them first to smell the sage then to pass it on. The aroma at once pleased each villager. Then he showed them how to light the sage with the coal embers from the fire before teaching them how to smudge each other whilst acknowledging one another. The smudging ignited love once again in the villager’s hearts and as they looked around to thank the young boy, they saw he had disappeared.

The fable highlights how richly intertwined within a culture smudging is and the magnitude within its meaning.

 

Does that mean non-Indigenous People can’t smudge?
Smoke Cleansing and The Island Witch Crafts

Sofia gently shared with me that her own understanding of this history is why she refuses to appropriate the culture of Indigenous Peoples. Island Witch Crafts is her resolve to introduce the myriad of magical ways to smoke cleanse respectfully whilst still connecting to ourselves and a divine source.

Ways that many cultures around the world have practiced for centuries that are appropriate for all. Leaning in to the knowledge from the smoke cleansing practices of her native Chile whilst also taking inspiration from the Mediterranean Witches of Ibiza, Sofia consciously forages for the all the herbs, plants and flowers that go into her bundles, praying over them. Each of her seasonally and locally produced bundles of beauty are infused with her heart centered wishes, energy and spells.

“I decided I wanted to learn more about the plants in Ibiza that have the same properties as the white sage (Salvia apiana) native to North America.

The indigenous Peoples of Chile use cinnamon bark whilst rosemary is not only a part of my own heritage but a plant well used in Ibiza.”

 

“Why and what do we cleanse?

According to Sofia, “We can cleanse ourselves and our space as well as set an intention for something we either wish to release or desire. Thus becoming more of a ritual.

“Smoke cleansing is a very quiet reflective time as you are connecting to the elements.  I love to use the smoke for auric cleansing as well as in my house. Its important to cleanse our homes and dispel any negative energy we no longer want or need”

ALCHEMY AND THE STEPS OF SMOKE CLEANSING

As with a lot of smoke cleaning from around the world many share the same four basic elements. Here the candle holds Fire, the bundle holds the Earth and Water and your breath represents the Air.

There are a number of ways to smoke cleanse but here is a basic guide from Sofia.

1.

Light a candle and light your bundle, incense or mix. Now is a beautiful moment to create some alchemy.

2.

Set an intention, state your desire or ask for guidance and as you do so inhale. As you exhale so the intention and your vibration is released into the ether.

3.

You can use a fan or feathers to continuously fan the smoke, just as you would a fire.
“I have a very unholy Ibiza fun fan that I take out dancing but it makes me happy and for me dancing is the most sacred thing ever.”

4.

Now with your “smoking” stick you can move it around your home or over you. Move the stick clockwise around your body or upward so it becomes an uplifting action.

5.

To cleanse your space, start from the doors especially the inside of archways which is where energy passes through – if you don’t feel much don’t worry about it let the smoke do its things. This is a very intuitive practice, there are no rules. See what works for you – say prayers, light it up set an intention and let it smoke around you.

6.

Now with your “smoking” stick you can move it around your home or over you. Move the stick clockwise around your body or upward so it becomes an uplifting action.

When I started off writing this piece, it was supposed to be a fun exploration into “smudging”. Thanks to Sofia and her dream to harness the nature of Ibiza with the ancient ancestral insights, we can all treasure smoke cleansing in a joyful way.

Now each morning and evening my own sacred ceremony is enlivened and more joyful. My mother will be so proud that I now know how to smoke properly.

We have tried as much as possible to offer an honest perspective that honours the Indigenous People of North America but are always open to learning and educating ourselves more so please feel free to share your understanding with us too.

If you would like to learn more too, here are a few articles and videos we watched.

 

Native Smudging vs Trendy – Indigenous Smudging with Sage (What’s the difference?)

WATCH VIDEO

HAVE A READ

 

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